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What is behind the upswing in South Carolina boat accidents?

In the first half of 2017 alone, reports listed 40 recreational boating accidents in the state of South Carolina, and those included five fatalities.

The Department of Natural Resources is among the agencies that compile such statistics. Along with the numbers, some issues have emerged that the DNR believes might explain why there are so many accidents on the water.

Background on the numbers

In 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that there were 23 boating deaths in this state, the highest number since 2013, and 136 boating accidents total, the highest number recorded in the past five years. While the fatality rate was below the national average, it still marked an increase from 2015. The DNR confirms that in recent years there has been an upward trend in both accidents and fatalities connected with boating activities in South Carolina waters.

The commissioned report

A 2015 Department of Natural Resources report commissioned by the state senate showed that the biggest concerns relative to accidents on the water were drunken boaters, lack of proper boater education and the need for more DNR officers, a need which authorities are currently addressing.

The life vest issue

The issue of drunken boaters is a continuing problem, but a drowning in Lake Greenwood brought up the ongoing need for boaters to wear life jackets. The DNR points out that people become complacent. If they go out in a boat frequently without any problem developing, they tend to think they are safe enough if a life vest is in reach. It also seems to be a “social” thing: A life jacket simply does not fit the bill for high fashion. In addition, DNR boat inspections often turn up life vests that are worn out or ripped.

Addressing boating injuries

A boating injury is handled under admiralty law if the accident occurs in navigable waters. In South Carolina, those include the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Savannah and Charleston Harbor, among others. The goal of the Department of Natural Resources is to bring boating accidents down to zero. There are steps boaters can take to help reach that objective. However, as a DNR official points out, boating accidents are sometimes “just bad luck.”

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